Serendipity – Storytelling of Wine and War – Le Maitre de Maison de Sa Cave a Sa Table

It was @Reemski who triggered it – not the Wine and War – but finally got me underway to list my family’s library collections on LibraryThing

 And inevitably revealed, the books that I always meant to read, continually bobbing up and down in the overladen bookcases around our home.

Thus in the early weeks of 2010, and 70 years after the Axis invasion of France, I finally began to read “Wine & War” (E-Reader excerpt) an alternate view of WWII through the eyes of winelovers, Don & Petie Kladstrup. As described by The Wine Doctor, their book is a series of stories of survival under Occupation as told by many of the wine making families of France. It is these stories that predominate over the often awful military details described elsewhere. And also because of these unusual circumstances one man was able to gather the stories of wine and food of regional France.

The story starts in Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps and just across the river from Salzburg, where I had first heard of its Eagles Nest during a trip to Austria in late 1981. We had peered up at it – barely visible so high was it – as our Guide told us of its history as Hitler’s fortress. Really …  just an interesting aside from our skiing holiday in the area near St Johann’s am Pillersee in the Austrian Alps. WWII seemed so long ago to us back then, in our twenties, and yet in1981 these events at Berchtesgaden had occurred less than 40 years earlier.

The Kladstrups tell of the vast quantities of French Champagne and wine plundered & railed to Berchtesgaden, despite the efforts of many French to secret as much as possible away behind fake walls in their cellars.

In the opening page the Kladstrups describe the uncovering of half a million bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild & many other vintages recovered from Berchtesgaden in 1944 by Sergeant Bernard de Nonancourt & others in the French Army. And there were many, many other items stashed there – thus in reading “Wine & War”, I began to appreciate Berchtesgaden’s significance.

In fact it was the stories in “Wine & War”, that made understanding life under the Occupation a closer reality. In movies we often see occcupied Paris, but less of the countryside, such as the Great Wine Regions of France. In “Wine & War” the family stories tell of yet another war after so many … of taking the longer term view …  of preserving the family’s wine heritage & economy to be ready in the years after the  conflict ended. And also to comprehend the creation of a “borderless” Europe –  what would be later called the European Union – to avoid such wars in the future.

Memorable  stories for me were those of members of French wine families in POW camps – such as Gaston Huet of the Loire who organized the great wine tasting party on January 24 1943, the feast day of St Vincent – patron saint French winemakers – but in the end had to be spread over several days to accommodate 4000 prisoners.The plan was for 700 bottles of wine to “be obtained to enable each prisoner just one glass of wine. The organising committee was composed of representatives from each of France’s wine regions “- an indication of the geographic spread of the POW population. Many of the prisoners did not come from wine backgrounds, and so Huet generously shared his knowledge of wine regions, wines & their characteristics, so that the rare experience could fully savoured.

Huet recalled years later “I don’t know what we would have done without that party. It gave us something to hold on to. It gave us a reason to get up in the morning to get through each day. Talking about wine and sharing it  made all of us feel closer to home, and more alive.”

In fact it was years later when the Kladstrups went to interview Gaston Huet about his opposition to the French Government bringing the TGV railroad through the vineyards, that the whole story of wine in France during the war began to unfold.

Equally evocative – Roger Ribaud also in a POW camp – ‘Christmas 1940 “On this Noel of 1940, I have begun to write a little book in an effort to dispel some of the sadness that we are living with and share some of the hopes we cling to in our captivity, of returning to our homes and loved ones and the values we hold most dear” … Ribaud began to make a list of French wines, every wine he could think of: some he had tasted, others he hoped to taste. He sorted them by region : Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Alsace, the Loire. He classified them according to their finesse, body and bouquet. ‘

It would become a book entitled Le Maitre de Maison de Sa Cave a Sa Table – The Head of the Household from His Cellar to His Table  – this is a memoir of great food and wine and how they can brought into perfect harmony” – google it and you will still find reference to this great work -with copies sometimes still available.

Writing on whatever scraps of paper he could scavenge made “long cold lonely days seem shorter“… and Ribaud “asked other POW’s about their favourite wine and food combinations , what grapes grow best in their regions  and how they prepared certain foods  … over time he compiled a huge core of information and knowledge, not only about the famous wines but about small country ones barely known outside their villages…… 

“After the war, his book was published to great acclaim and hailed as one of the first books that paid serious attention to regional wines and food …. Roger Ribaud sent a copy to each of his fellow prisoners of war ‘I hope this will ease the pain of imprisonment and yet be a souvenir of our friendship and the years we shared together’.

Roger Ribaud stressed that one did not have to be an expert to know about these things, that most of this could be learned by reading, tasting and talking to others …”

True knowledge sharing ! And in the most unexpected situations …



Italian Roasted Pork Loin with Grapes – Sunday Night Family Dinner


I really loved Australian Table Magazine which morphed into BBC Australian Good Food Mag, which I wasn’t so sure about. However tonight I adapted their Roasted Pork Loin with Grapes for my family’s Sunday Night Family Dinner (haven’t been able to find their magazine site online as yet !).

I deleted the white wine vinegar and replaced it with extra virgin olive oil.

I also added 2 medium potatoes (to serve 4) peeled & cut into segments as well as 4 small onions to the roasting pan an hour before roasting was due to end.

Then I added sliced capsicum (bell peppers) & eggplant (aubergine) cut into 2cm cubes to the roasting pan for last 30 minutes .

Served with sliced steamed Carrots & steamed French Green Beans.

The pork was so very succulently tender & my “70 something” Mum really loved it – especially the red grapes, as she had never had grapes in a mains before – and it’s so important to have older folk keep eating & maintain an interest in food!

After dinner my Teen, Kat baked White Chocolate Mud Cake (WhiteWings) & Orange Cake (Greens) – both with Green Coloured Frosting – hmm well I used to do Purple coloured cakes ….

(PS Mum says she’s about to experiment with a new Chocolate Cake recipe made with Beetroot pureed in a blender – now I am not so sure about that – however if she’s willing to try my experiments then I obviously have to reciprocate !)

(PPS – I may need to buy a few more copies of BBC Australian Good Food Mag in future – features Suzanne Gibbs daughter of iconic veteran Australian foodie Margaret Fulton)


Elies se Armi – Greek Pickled Olives from my Thirroul Seaside Garden – Global Wanderings in My Kitchen

I’ve been to Greece  a few times and just loved the food, Spanokopita. Tiropitakia, Dolmades, Tzatziki, Taramasalata, Souvlaki, Greek Roasted Leg of Lamb, Cheeses (Feta & Haloumi), Saganaki, Garithes me Feta (Garlic Prawns cooked in Tomato & Feta Sauce), Baklava & of course the Olives.


A while back our local Thirroul Bowlo Club eatery turned Greek for a while, when it wsa run by the husband of one my old school mates, Efti, one of the few Greeks in Thirroul in those days. We’d celebrated our wedding anniversary at their inaugural Greek Bazouki & Belly Dancing Night. It was a great night with Greek dancing, even more so to find that some of our old workmates, who are members of the Illawarra Greek community, as well as being friends of friends of Efti’s husband, had wandered up to Thirroul to help kick it off.



So enthused by Greek foods, about 10 years ago, I’d planted an olive tree in the front garden of our seaside home on the NSW South Coast. We have a southerly exposure to salt laden winds so everything takes ages to grow – if they survive at all. The olive tree grew & grew – competing with the banksia’s that attract Sulphur Crested Black Cockatoos.


We didn’t get any olives for a long, long time. And even if we had, I recalled the label on the little bush I’d bought said something about a caustic soda pickling method – surely there was something less nasty ? But most stories I’d heard mentioned the caustic soda method – really offputting.

Finally, 3 years ago we had lots of olives – not enough to press our own oil – but enough to bottle the olives themselves. By then I’d read a few more of my Greek cookbooks, and discovered caustic soda wasn’t necessary at all.


So I used Elies se Armi, aka Pickled Olives, pp18-19 from the AWW Easy Greek Style Cookery book – similar to Tess Mallos’s Greek Cookbook p98,Angeline Kapsaskis’s Greek Commonsense Cookbook p16 & Bourke’s Backyard Factsheet – ( full instruction details here ).

The tedious part is making the 2 lengthwise cuts to the stone in each olive, gloves are recommended if you don’t want your hands dyed a burgundy-purplish shade. I mentioned the olive slitting to an ABL (Australian Born Lebanese) work mate and she muttered about her father’s bottling of olives – not something she wanted to do again too often. Another Macedonian workmate confirmed that the brine pickling was definitely the way to do olives & mentioned that it is common to not get a good crop every year.

Altogether, it really is too easy – all you need is olives, water, salt and, at the end, olive oil. Change the water every day for 5-10 days, depending on whose recipe you follow, then leave them in the dark. I leave them for months, rather than opening after 5 weeks as some recipes indicate. Contributions to the Manisa Turkish website tend to agree – some suggesting keeping them in the dark for 6 months before opening.


My husband’s bottled olives from last year’s crop were checked by our nephew James, the Apprentice Chef, & he was very impressed that we bottled our own. James liked their flavour too. We’d emailed a copy of the technique to cousins down on their farm in Oaklands, near Corowa in southern NSW. Ann had been a high school cooking teacher, but had left to manage the farm finances. She is deadly with removing avocado stones with quick knife stab – but hadn’t worked out how to pickle the many olives growing on their trees in the Home Paddock kitchen garden. But she was very keen to try it out.

So we’re finding that we get reasonable crop every second year – depending on how many we lose to storms and alas, the sulphur crested black cockatoos & galahs who seemed to have enjoyed this year’s crop.


Postscript for @misssafet

Psari Lemonato from Tess Mallos Greek Cookbook – which I believe is out of print – possibly in her Complete Middle East Cookbook – recently reprinted

  • 1 whole fish for baking (1kg)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • salt& pepper
  • 500gm potatoes very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Clean fish & slash each side in 2 or 3 places
  2. Sprinkle inside & out with some of lemon juice & season with salt & pepper
  3. Place in oiled baking dish
  4. Arrange sliced potatoes around fish & pour remaining lemon juice over potatoes & fish
  5. Season potatoes with salt & pepper – pour olive oil over contents of dish
  6. Sprinkle with oregano then cover with foil
  7. Cook at 180-190oC for 40 minutes (check after 30 minutes)
  8. Remove foil & continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until fish & potatoes are cooked
  9. Serve immediately with steamed spinach, green salad and/or Greek salad

Serves 4-5


Why we need to record – Mrs Joan Adams’s Devilled Sausages – a childhood memory inspired by Kylie Kwong

I had previously scoured Mum’s decades old recipe clippings, but had not located her “Devilled Sausages” recipe, and so I was hoping that when Mum tasted my improvisation, that she might be able to shed some light on any specific ingredients that I had missed.

Over dinner, Mum admitted that she certainly recalled the dish, and thought my improvisation was fairly close – but sadly explained that although she had been searching her recipe clippings collection, so far she had not found her original recipe.

How many family treasures could that scenario apply to ?

So important to document them isn’t it ?

Otherwise lost forever…Records matter … otherwise knowledge sharing can be limited

PS …

Sausages are fairly basic, traditional family fare – although it is easy to pimp them with trimmings. 

One of my fav memories is the trimmings used by my friend & caterer, Irene Tognetti, and also mother of one of Australian’s Living Treasures : Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Richard Tognetti.

It was local government election time, where Irene was doing the catering for 100+ folk at a Trivia Night fundraiser. Although I was fairly distracted being both a candidate & the campaign director, I was still so impressed with how Irene transformed what could have been just another mundane sausage sizzle.

How ? So easy really – with generous sprays of Rosemary on the platters of sausages for each table – so simple and so effective.

KerrieAnne’s Devilled Sausages Recipe

– 10 sausages (ours come from our local Harvey’s Gourmet Butchers in the NSW South Coast seaside village of Thirroul – their meat is so absolutely superb! )
– 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (sliced or grated or finely chopped – I used finely chopped from the excess I had prepared for the birthday party)
– Worcestershire Sauce (I use Lea & Perrins which is quite runny and not as thick as some brands)
– 4-6 Basil leaves (I used fresh from our Vege Patch – David is amazed how big the Basil leaves are this year – with all the warmth, rain & humidity ! )

– 1/3 cup tomato sauce
– 1/4 cup brown vinegar
– 3 tbspns brown sugar
– 2 tspsns Keens Mustard Powder

1. Preheat oven to 190oC
2. Grease rectangular baking dish
3. Combine sauce ingredients
4. Slit sausages lengthwise – but do not cut all the way through – then place them in baking dish
5. Spoon mixed sauce ingredients into slits in sausages
6. Arrange cheese (slices – grated or finely chopped) over the sauce filled slits in sausages
7. Sprinkle Worcestershire Sauce over the cheese – but do not be heavy handed
8. Bake in oven for approximately 25 minutes
9. Remove from oven – lift with egg slice or BarbieMate tool.

To serve :  Garnish with fresh Basil leaves & serve with potato mash & steamed vegetables 


– Kylie Kwong’s “Recipes & Stories” p 40-41 version has a Bacon slice placed over the sauce on each sausage, before the cheese is added – and did not have the Worcestershire Sauce sprinkling

– my Mum doesn’t recall using Bacon in her version but reckons it would work quite well
– also, neither Kylie Kwong’s nor my Mum’s had the Basil leaves)